Dealing with Complexity LO6630

Michael McMaster (
Thu, 11 Apr 1996 20:25:41 +0000

Replying to LO6568 --

I want to pick on one particular part of Rick's comments which
distinguish the "physical" from the "human". I think the distinction
has some possibility but want to press even further with the
linguistic nature of the "human" world and hence, also for us, the
physical world.

And the sciences are beginning to get very far into this both in the
philosophy of science - sadly neglected today as far as I can tell -
and the theory of science. (Surface physics finds no surface except
those at a chosen - by humans - scale.)

Read "Physics as Metaphor" or the "Inventing Reality" for easy
reading in the area. These are written by physicists. Or get into
semiotics and discover that its all language and that there is no
referent in reality but merely relationships of referents. Einstein
and Saussure (the founder of semiotics) lived about the same time in
different parts of Switzerland and came up with the same answers from
their two very different perspectives - one philosophy, one science.

All that is to say, there may not be as much difference as you are
supposing. I think that Peirce can be read in this vein. (But I'll
leave that assessment to our resident expert, John Warfield.)

Rick, its' the following that I want to take up:
> For example, people have told me over the years with great certainty that
> "if someone is to do something, there has to be a benefit for them
> personally." Well, we can see lots of data from day to day to support this
> theory. But, regardless of how true it is in our real world, say in our
> Western culture, this "law" does not have the permanence of the law about
> relative reactivity of metals. This "law" comes from our culture and our
> habits of thinking, and there are counter examples we can find that show
> it's not immutable. If it is a pretty useful theory it's only because of
> our cultural way of thinking.

The laws aren't immutable but there may be those in human affairs
that are *as* immutable as the so called physical ones. I'll leave
the exploration of that for another day. I think that what is being
dealt with in your approach is that humans tend to not keep to the
same laws for themselves that they espouse to be human laws.

Your example of "there has to be a benefit for them" to explain human
behaviour is no law at all. It is an opinion, a theory, a way of
making sense of the world that is *made* true by the one who states
it. They believe it. (see Warfield or Peirce on belief) But they
have created an explanation which satisfies them and which can be
stated in a way which cannot be debated. This does not make it true
nor a "law". It is merely a screen which has been constructed to
make sense of the world for that person.

Once you have created a model that this is so and then come to
believe in your own model, there is no way to argue against it *to
the one holding the model*. That is, the exceptions can also be made
to fit. My suicide can be seen as twisted example of my thinking
that I'd benefit. *Anything* can be made to fit. This is mere
"junko logic". (John has more elegant terms.)

Interestingly, it will also be claimed to be logical and, thereby,
even scientific. That is, there will be research possible if not
actual and a whole "junko scientific" case can be made. Science may
not be popular but we are living in an age where if "science" and
"logic" don't support what you are saying - in your own eyes at
least - then you cannot say it in any sort of educated public.

And, finally, I don't quite agree with your statements about how we
judge people. We do what you say. And it need not necessarily be
that way and we thereby do damage to people. That is, we limit their
possibilities unreasonably and unjustifiably. BUT, we also are
social creatures who are determined by our pasts and the networks we
find ourselves in and while change is possible at any level, it is
not necessarily likely or worthy of betting on with our scarce

The problem is that we are not responsible for our choices in the
matter rather than, necessarily, the actions we take in that regard.

Michael McMaster :
book cafe site :
Intelligence is the underlying organisational principle
of the universe. Heraclitus


Michael McMaster <>

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <> -or- <>